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On the search for grasslands: long distance dispersal of spring-staging Barnacle Geese (Branta leucopsis) from a farmland area in Southeast Denmark

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Barnacle Geese wintering in an intensively farmed area in Southeast Denmark were GPS tagged in early March. Twenty tagged geese selected large open (especially permanent) grasslands above relative availability and close to their roosts, although winter cereals were also used. During March and April all tagged birds left the area and moved to coastal grasslands in other parts of Denmark, the German Wadden Sea or Southern Sweden, some up to 210 km diametrically opposite to the main migratory direction towards the Russian Arctic. The unexpected long distance dispersal may be caused by lack of suitable short-grazed coastal grasslands in the study area.


Auf der Suche nach Grasflächen: Weitreichende Ausbreitung von Weißwangengänsen (Branta leucopsis) auf dem Frühjahrszug aus einer Ackerfläche im Südosten Dänemarks

Weißwangengänse, die in einem intensiv bewirtschafteten Gebiet im Südosten Dänemarks überwinterten, wurden Anfang März mit GPS-Geräten ausgestattet. Zwanzig markierte Gänse nutzten überproportional ausgedehnte offene (besonders dauernde) Grasflächen in der Nähe ihrer Schlafplätze, obwohl auch Wintergetreideflächen genutzt wurden. Zwischen März und April verließen alle markierten Vögel das Gebiet und zogen auf küstennahe Grasflächen in anderen Teilen Dänemarks, im deutschen Wattenmeer oder in Südschweden um, manche bis zu 210 km entgegen der Hauptzugrichtung in die russische Arktis. Diese unerwartete weitreichende Ausbreitung könnte auf einen Mangel an geeigneten kurzgehaltenen küstennahen Grasflächen zurückzuführen sein.

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Data availability

Tagging data and position data of GPS-tagged geese will be made publicly available at Data sets on field types generated during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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The authors thank landowner Jesper Løje for giving permission to catch geese on his property. Tony Fox is thanked for organizing the link with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and for mounting the GPS devices. Henning Heldbjerg, Michael Albert Schmidt, Jacob Sterup and Claus Lunde Pedersen are thanked for help with cannon netting. The project was supported by a grant from the Danish Environmental Protection Agency and 15 June Foundation.


Jesper Madsen Funded by Miljøstyrelsen (Grant no MST-568-00028), 15 June Foundation (dk) (Grant no 2020-0450)

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Authors and Affiliations



JM was responsible for the study conception and design. JM and LC were responsible for funding acquisition. Data collection and analysis were performed by JP, JM, KKC and LC. The first draft of this manuscript was written by JM, JP and KKC. All the authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jesper Madsen.

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The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare that are relevant to the content of this article.

Ethical approval

Ringing methods and GPS tagging were approved by the Copenhagen Bird Ringing Center with permission from the Danish Nature Agency ( SN 302–009).

Additional information

Communicated by F. Bairlein.

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Madsen, J., Pedersen, J., Cao, L. et al. On the search for grasslands: long distance dispersal of spring-staging Barnacle Geese (Branta leucopsis) from a farmland area in Southeast Denmark. J Ornithol 163, 615–620 (2022).

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